A Proposal

The Gaping Hole in Communist Agenda

T Vijayendra

There are a large number of individuals who are communists or potential communists who are not in the existing communist parties in India. Some even suggest that their numbers exceed the membership of the communist parties!

There are many reasons for this. They can range from people just wishing for a revolution to committed activists who cannot be in the party because they have serious differences with it. One of the reasons for this is that they don't find contemporary concerns reflected in the party programmes. There are many such concerns—caste and gender being the most often cited. This article however mainly deals with an aspect that is both urgent and is of great magnitude; that is, ecological degradation and depletion of non-renewable natural resources. The implications of these are so deep and far reaching that it calls for major changes in many programmes of the party.

This article both reflects the views of some of these 'communists' outside the party and also addresses them because many of them have been articulating similar views. In that sense it is a dialogue with them as well as with the communist parties. It may, hopefully, also contribute to Left unity in India.

In truth many non-communist groups are also talking about these issues. In fact many of them, and some NGOs and even some individuals have done significant work too. However, their work does not spread beyond a point because in their programme there is no agenda of 'expropriating the expropriators'. Without taking away the control over resources by existing ruling classes no far reaching change can occur. Communists alone have this in their programme. By including these concerns in their programmes, the communist parties can become more effective and can collaborate with the efforts of these groups.

There are a very large number of communist parties in India—the number definitely runs into double digits. These parties can be classified in several ways. One is the stage of the revolution—whether the stage is democratic or socialist. The parties that bear the name Communist Party of India with various suffixes—like M, ML, etc. generally believe in 'democratic revolution' to be followed by a 'socialist revolution' whereas other parties like SUCI(C), Forward Block (M), Trotskyites etc. believe in "Socialist Revolution'.

Then there are other differences like path of the revolution, whether to take part in parliamentary elections or not, and if yes, should communists form a government or not, and, of course, the Maoist strategy of protracted people's war and so on. The action part ranges from trade unions, taking part in elections and wherever possible to form a government to the Maoist line of revolution here and now. Even then there are enough grounds for common cause and unity in practice.

Common Heritage
‘‘Our short term goal is to unionise all the working classes.
Our long term goal is to achieve socialism.’’

Apart from these common slogans communists share many other things. They all share the principles of equality, brotherhood and freedom, the ideas that came originally from the French Revolution. Secondly they share most of the ideas of Marx—for instance, that the society is composed of classes with antagonistic relations, that the class struggle is the motor of history and so on. Hence, the slogan about unionising all the working classes is the most basic and all important slogan. And finally they all believe in a revolutionary transformation of the present society into a more egalitarian society.

They also share the ideas that socialism will lead to communism and anarchism. The traditional slogan about transformation from socialism to communism is 'from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs'. The slogan for anarchism is 'a free association of a free people' with emphasis on freedom and self-managed local communities federating with other such communities. Anarchism also implies abolition of the state and the communist party itself!

Contemporary Concerns
The contemporary concerns which the communist parties must include in their programmes are mainly about the ecological degradation and depletion of non-renewable natural resources (NNR). While ecological degradation due to capitalism was known even in the 19th century, its close relation to over use of NNR has been established relatively recently. Good quantitative estimates are even more recent.

In 1981, a group of NASA scientists led by James Hansen provided figures on the ability of the earth to absorb the CO2 that people now spew into the atmosphere. The CO2 content had been steady at about 280 parts per million (ppm) during the first 10,000 years in which agriculture provided food for humans, but that regimen changed with the use of fossil fuels energy. Now, 350 to 360 ppm is accepted as the maximum for maintaining the kind of civilization people are accustomed to, but the CO2 people keep pushing into the atmosphere through their use of fossil energy has now raised the content to 400 ppm with still higher levels forecast.

The consequence is increasingly disruptive global warming, which holds the potential for a planetary scale catastrophe. The scenario is so bleak that even if socialism triumphs, the primary task for the socialist government may be to mitigate the catastrophe or simply try to survive it as it unfolds. So the sooner the world supersedes capitalism, the greater the chance for human survival.

On the other hand, fossil fuels and other NNRs are also depleting rapidly. For the first time, in 2012, a comprehensive set of figures has become available that discloses the use of the minerals that have made industrialized civilization possible. With the publication of Scarcity, Humanity's Final Chapter? by Christopher O Clugston, there is now a comprehensive study that shows mineral usage rates. Meticulous examination of 89 of Non-Renewable minerals shows that usage rates are peaking and that remaining supplies are dwindling rapidly. This means that continuance of existing living standards that are dependent upon these minerals is impossible. Instead, societal collapse world-wide must be expected by 2050.(1)

Nor is earth's ability to provide bounty from renewable resources available any more. In 1992, Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees attached figures to the annual bounty that humans obtain from what grows—forests, soils, fisheries, etc. Building on this, a Living Planet Index now indicates the health of world biodiversity and an Ecological Footprint provides a measure of people's demands on Earth's resources. These figures show that people's consumption of the earth's renewable resources is now one and a half times the rate at which the earth produces its bounty, with the excess coming from consumption and depletion of NNR.

These findings are based upon extensive studies, including trends in forests, fields, and in almost 8000 vertebrate species and demands of more and more people. The consequence must be higher food prices. As everyone knows, this is already a reality. All this leads to a requirement that people immediately decrease the use of fossil fuels, other NNRs and even earth's biological and renewable resources rapidly and plan a socialist society on the basis of a drastic reduction of the scale of energy use and base it on local self sufficiency.

The Present Situation and the Immediate Task of the Party
This is a common document given out by the communist parties from time to time.

1.    Since 2008, the capitalist system has plunged into an unprecedented crisis. There are three main aspects of this crisis:
a.  End of economic growth due to peak oil and general scarcity of non-renewable and renewable natural resources
b.  Global Warming
c.   Growing Inequality

The period of rapid global economic growth prior to the Great Recession of 2008 is a thing of past. The magnitude associated with global NNR requirements became historically unprecedented by 2008. That year was simply the transition point, when the number of permanently scarce NNRs became sufficiently large to permanently depress future economic growth trajectories.

All indications are that capitalism will attempt to re-establish and maintain or exceed pre-recession economic output (GDP) levels and growth rates, both domestically and globally. The world will soon discover, however, that ever-increasing NNR scarcity has rendered these goals physically impossible.

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere which causes global warming has already reached unacceptable levels. A related phenomenon, climate change, has resulted in increase in hurricanes, untimely rains, warmer summers and greater ice melting in summers in the polar region. It is also endangering several species and causing extinction of many others.

The inequalities in the world have increased tremendously. It has given rise to movements like 'We are ninety nine' in the USA. In India, more than 70% people live below poverty line. Half of Indian population does not get two square meals. More than 90% people are facing fall in their living standards due to fall in real wages or inflation, loss of job, loss of health due to polluted food, water and air. On the other hand, among the top 1 percent conspicuous consumption is increasing, like luxury cars, houses with its own helipads, private air planes etc. Thus even in India there is a possibility of movements like 'We are 99%'.

2.   This crisis has brought the three great centres of capitalism—USA, Europe and Japan under permanent crisis. Now, China too is experiencing decreasing growth.

3.   At the same time, this crisis is giving rise to revolutionary upsurges like the Arab Spring.

4.   One of the causes of Arab Spring was unprecedented rise in food prices and the involvement of trade unions. This year there is going to be another global food scarcity and rise in prices. Are the communists prepared for the revolutionary chance that may be in the offing?

5.   We believe we should prepare for a victorious offensive and be ready with our programmes, manifestos and decrees for the revolutionary take over. Phrases like 'resilience of capitalism' or 'capitalism's ability to reinvent itself' should not detract us from building our strength, keeping our powder dry and be ready to act when the need arises.

6.  We cannot predict events, but we should be ready to seize the chance and initiative. In a large sub-continent like India, different events can happen at different places. But everywhere we should keep on improving our work and build strength.

7.   In the light of the nature of the present crisis, we believe some fresh elements should be added in our concept of socialism. They are:

      a.  Drastic reduction of use of fossil fuels aiming at eventual non-availability of fossil fuels.
b.  Scaling down the level of energy used both from non renewable and renewable sources.
c.   Localisation instead of globali-sation and local self sufficiency.
d.  Restoring ecological degradation through agro ecology and permaculture.

Manifestos and Decrees
We give below a sample of ideas that should be included in a manifesto or decree. By Manifesto we have in mind 'Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra' of the Cuban revolution and by Decrees we have in mind the Decrees that were issued in the Russian Revolution. A Manifesto is a futuristic document—a kind of wish list. Decrees are released after the revolution by the new revolutionary government. We are deliberately giving a mix of the two.
This is not a complete document. We are only indicating our areas of concern. Many well established ideas of the communist movement, such as expropriation of the expropriators and its concrete manifestations, such as, nationalisation of rapacious big private capitalist enterprises, land reforms and so on remain valid and they will be included in such a document.

1.   Nature of the State
India shall be a Federal Socialist Republic or People's Federal Democratic Republic. (The two formulations correspond to the stage of revolution—socialist or democratic.) The Federal Government will deal with limited number of subjects—foreign affairs, defence, currency and reserve bank, post office, railways, national highways, air lines and institutes of learning of national importance.

      For this, the federating states will contribute to the central or federal government. The existing states will be the constituent units. Formation of new states based on ecology, language and people's demands will be facilitated (Telangana, Vidarbha and many others). It is estimated that there will be around 60 such federal states. It is also possible that at a later stage the neighbouring SAARC countries may join such a federation.

2.   Defence and Foreign Affairs
India will immediately enter into no war agreements with neighbouring countries.

      India will withdraw forces unilaterally from irrational advance positions like Siachen and ask Pakistan also to do the same.

      Kashmir issue will be resolved by uniting the two Kashmirs and involving the people of Kashmir. India will withdraw unnecessary and irrational security forces from Kashmir. India will propose demilitarisation of South Asia starting with non-use of nuclear arms agreements with Pakistan and China.

      India will propose to settle all outstanding border disputes with its neighbours, particularly with China on a priority basis. A 'no tension' border with China and Pakistan will save a lot of resources.

      India will take initiative in "No Visa" among SAARC countries.

      All persons of Indian origin having foreign nationality will have a right to dual citizenship.
Capital punishment will be abolished immediately.

3.   Economic Affairs
There will be no GDP goals. India will strive to achieve zero economic and population growth.
There will be no new big hydro, thermal or nuclear energy projects or new big mining activity. Existing energy use will be audited and energy consumption will be scaled down. All nuclear energy plants will be decommissioned systematically and scientifically. All licences of private car companies will be cancelled. Maruti will manufacture mainly taxis and ambulances. Private ownership of cars will be phased out and they will be converted into taxis and ambulances.

      All private air lines will be closed. Over a period Air India will also be phased out.

      Railways will not be expanded but will be rationalised. Due to fuel crisis unnecessary travels will be discouraged. Expensive projects like bullet trains, luxury trains will not be taken up. Since economies will become more local, goods traffic will reduce drastically. Similarly road travels will also be not expanded as road transport will decrease in coming years. Many roads, like those going to ecologically vulnerable zones will be closed.

4.   Ecological Restoration
The biggest agenda for the country is to restore degraded ecology. Today, all life, including human life is endangered. Agro ecology will be the principal scientific and technical task before society. All fields of activity—science and technology, employment, education—starting from middle school to the highest level, community rebuilding etc. will have this focus.

5.   Water
In ecological restoration, water restoration and security will play the central role. The goal will be to ensure that the source is not degraded or polluted. All polluting and degrading sources will be identified. Restoring forests, improving lakes and rivers and preventing pollution will be of high priority.

6.   Food and Agriculture
There will be universal rationing based on local procurement. Production in excess states like Punjab and Haryana will be reduced and excess land will be converted into forests. Low water requirement agriculture products will be encouraged.
Drastic reduction in tobacco, areca, cane sugar, floriculture etc. will be carried out. Each ecological region will grow locally suitable agriculture products and will try to be as self sufficient as possible.

      Forest land, grass land and swamps will not be converted into agricultural land. In fact part of existing agriculture land will be converted back into these using principles of permaculture.

7.   Housing
All citizens will have a right to have free and suitable housing. No one will be allowed to own any house other than s/he is dwelling in. All excess houses will be confiscated by local bodies and converted to dwelling for the homeless or for public uses such as education, library, museum, theatre and so on.

8.   Healthcare
Healthcare will be free at all levels. Irrational capitalistic practices—unnecessary tests, irrational drugs or surgical interventions etc. will be controlled so as to reduce costs. Good policies, such as rational drug therapy, production of essential generic drugs, preventive and social medicine, holistic health and so on will be encouraged.

9.   Education
All education will be free at all levels. Up to class 12, it will be also compulsory. All students will go only to local school, thus eliminating unnecessary transport cost and saving time. Education contents will be decided on the basis of local ecology, concern for the community, reducing the difference between manual and intellectual skills and overall general humanistic education.

      There is an irrational and substandard growth in higher education. This is a sheer waste and it should be curbed. For example there are some 500 odd engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh. As a rule each district needs one such college. India as a whole does not need more than 1000 such colleges. A maximum of 5 colleges can be permitted in a big metro city.

      Secondly just as medical colleges have to have a hospital, all engineering colleges should be production units. Similarly, agricultural colleges should be self-sufficient in food.

      All education beyond class 12 must be designed to be part-time. The maximum working hours in all jobs must be reduced so that anyone wishing to study further can do so while being financially independent. This means work will be distributed among more people. Once financial independence is assured, further studies will be motivated more by interest in the field rather than as an investment.

10.Admissions and Recruitment
All competitive examinations will be abolished for admissions and recruitments. A first selection will be done on the basis of existing education qualifications, the results will be equalized on the lines of 'Pilani Method' and further selection will be done on the basis of interviews and health check up. A record of community service in all fields will be given weightage.

There will be free access to all public libraries. Every school, community and neighbourhood will have a public library and will be connected to the larger library network.

Changing attitudes towards wildlife will be an important and basic component of the revolution. Special efforts will be made to conserve wild flora and fauna with the help of the existing nature societies in the country,

End note
This is evidently an incomplete document—one person's ideas. It will be good if a few others join, expand and fine tune it—if the document on the whole is considered acceptable.

This is a 'copy left' document and anyone is free to use it wholly or any section of it with or without acknowledgement. ooo

1. Scarcity : Humanity's Final Chapter? Nonrenewable Natural Resource Scarcity—Causes, Implications & Consequences—by Christo-pher O Clugston.

Autumn Number, Vol. 48, No. 14 - 17, Oct 11 - Nov 7, 2015